Measurements of the dispersion of the refractive index using a nonlinear interferometer are described. A sample of the optical material to be measured is interposed between two optically nonlinear crystals, and a moderately intense laser is passed through the combination. By observing the interference between the second harmonics produced in the two nonlinear crystals, the difference between the refractive indices of the sample at the laser frequency and its second harmonic frequency can be determined very precisely. We have used the interferometer to measure the dispersion in several gases between 1064 and 532 nm. We have also used it to determine the dispersion of two transparent solids. The method can measure the index difference to better than 0.1%, which for gases such as helium represents an absolute accuracy of ∼10−9.
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